"The left needs two things to survive. It needs mediocrity, and it needs dependence. It nurtures mediocrity in the public schools and the universities. It nurtures dependence through its empire of government programs. A nation that embraces mediocrity and dependence betrays itself, and can only fade away, wondering all the time what might have been."
- Urgent Agenda
CRITICAL REMINDER - AT 11:48 P.M. ET: Terror expert Steve Emerson reminds us of a painful truth that came out of this week's bust of a terror group in New York - that the chaps learned their hatreds in prison. We ignore this at our peril:
Amid all the shocking details in the disrupted plot to bomb Bronx synagogues and fire missiles at American military aircraft, one component of the case should come as no surprise - three of the alleged culprits converted to radical Islam in prison.
Radical Islamists have targeted prison populations for recruitment for years.
In New York, the man who was the head Muslim chaplain for state prisons considered the 9/11 hijackers to be martyrs. Warith Deen Umar spent 20 years working with New York prisons, overseeing the hiring of Muslim chaplains and leading prayer services.
That President Obama now wants to transfer hundreds of hardened jihadists into American prisons is a guarantee that they will serve as emissaries and proselytizers of jihad to the thousands of prisoners they are exposed to.
The Guantanamo prisoners will be looked up as jihadi rock stars and each one could potentially produce a hundred new ticking time bombs ultimately walking the streets of America. Although the President tried to reassure us that no inmate has ever escaped from a super maximum security prison, what about the newly indoctrinated jihadists among the existing inmates who will be certainly released after their terms are up?
Unless prison authorities start collecting intelligence on those in prison who belong to radical groups and who talk about carrying out violence once they get out, law enforcement is faced with a total blank slate, critically dependent upon confidential informants to help them thwart terrorist attacks.
COMMENT: Nothing has been done to stop the infiltration of our prisons, and nothing probably will be done by this administration. Any move would undoubtedly bring a flood of lawsuits by the ACLU, claiming violation of religious freedom. We came close to paying a terrible price for our indifference this past week. We may not be this lucky next time.
CREEPING UP - AT 11:01 A.M. ET: It isn't getting anywhere near the attention it deserves, but the price of gas at the pump is rising again, something that can only hurt any economic recovery. As usual, our OPEC "allies" aren't being helpful, but they have armies of lobbyists in Washington explaining things away:
May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali al- Naimi said the price of oil will climb to $75 a barrel when demand picks up.
“We’ll get there eventually,” al-Naimi told reporters in Rome today where he will attend meetings with energy ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations. “The trick is keeping it between $70 and $80. It will be achieved as demand rises and the fundamentals are better than they are now.”
COMMENT: The administration will use this as a further argument for its new standards for fuel efficiency. What they don't tell you is that these new standards will result in smaller, lighter, less safe cars. There are already authoritative stories in print predicting as many as 5,000 additional deaths a year as a result of this "progress." Let me gently point out that we can lose as many citizens to accidents each year because of smaller cars as we have lost in the entire Iraq war. How many demonstrations do you see?
WHY THE SUDDEN CONSERVATISM? - AT 9:23 A.M. ET: The liberal New Republic has an informative piece on why some recent polls show a cultural shift to the right among Americans. One Gallup poll showed the public pro-life for the first time since the poll was first taken. Another poll showed narrowing support for gun control. We are fair here, and will quote liberal publications when they have something important to say. John B. Judis notes the history. You can ignore the leftist spin that goes with it:
Prosperity nourishes social experimentation and libertinism; a steep recession makes us want to preserve and protect family, job, and community, and to restore what we think we have lost. In so far as abortion is seen by many Americans as a threat to the sanctity of the family, opposition to abortion--or simply discomfort and displeasure at the idea of abortion--would surface during economic downturns.
Judis notes that, even during the great Depression, when leftist organizations flowered, there was a stress on what we now call traditional values. A publication for the Young Communist League, discovered by the late historian, Warren Susman, actually said the following:
Some people have the idea that a YCLer is political minded, that nothing outside of politics means anything. Gosh no. They have a few simple problems. There is the problem of getting good men on the baseball team this spring, of opposition from ping-pong teams, of dating girls, etc. We go to shows, parties dances and all that. In short, the YCL and its members are no different from other people except that we believe in dialectical materialism as a solution to all problems.
Nothing like the light Marxist touch at the end. Judis says:
I laugh every time I read this quote, but Susman was making a serious point--that even left-wing organizations were drawn in by the social conservatism that gripped the country during the economic crisis of the 1930s.
OH PLEASE! - AT 8:44 A.M. ET: The president takes a meeting, as The Washington Times notes:
Sometimes momentous events happen without much notice in Washington.
Such was the case of Rolling Thunder and the White House. At 3:30 p.m. Friday, President Obama met privately with representatives of the group famous for its support of active-duty military, veterans and prisoners of war not to mention its distinctive blend of patriotism that includes Old Glory and motorcycles.
The moment was totally unexpected.
"The president stopped by while members of Rolling Thunder were meeting with administration officials about veterans' issues," said White House spokesman Nick Shapiro.
"He was very happy to meet with them," he added.
COMMENT: Yeah. He was so happy that, as the story points out, the White House turned down a meeting last week, saying the president was too busy. Guess the work load lightened up.
PURE INTIMIDATION - AT 8:30 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
The labor movement is taking square aim at Wall Street with a new tool in its fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act: the hundreds of billions of dollars in pension funds it manages for union workers and retirees, some of it held by the same firms that are fighting the provision known as "card check."
"Has your company made any public statements in support or opposition to EFCA?" asks one of nine pointed questions in a polite, detailed four-page questionnaire.
"If 'Yes,' please explain."
The detailed questionnaire has three parts. The first asks about fund managers' public positions, lobbying and political contributions. The second asks managers to "disclose any relationships during the past five years between your company and any organization(s) opposing the passage" of EFCA. The form lists 14 organizations, from anti-EFCA organizations like the Workforce Fairness Institute to trade groups that oppose it, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Roundtable.
A third passage asked whether other any trade association to which the fund managers belong has taken a position on the bill.
COMMENT: A message is clearly being sent: Cooperate, or lose huge amounts of business from pension funds.
I think this is unwise, from the unions' standpoint. They begin to look like bosses, and the unpopular EFCA issue is hardly the one on which to make a stand. It would, in the view of its opponents, eliminate free elections in union organizing.
(Full disclosure: I am a member of a union, required in the film and television industries. I have no problem with responsible union activity. I think this questionnaire pushes things into areas that are very murky.)
HOW THE PRESS BLUNDERS - AT 3:30 P.M. ET: Often, press bias is slipped into a story in oh so subtle ways. Take today's New York Times piece about Obama continuing some of the detention policies of the Bush administration. The piece makes it clear that Obama has his critics:
But Mr. Obama’s critics say his proposal is Bush redux. Closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and holding detainees domestically under a new system of preventive detention would simply “move Guantánamo to a new location and give it a new name,” said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested this month that as many as 100 detainees might be held in the United States under such a system.
COMMENT: Bad journalism. It quotes the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, implying that he is some kind of great authority on the subject, and gives no background on the organization.
In fact, the Center is a pro-Communist, anti-American group that has consistently sided with this country's enemies over the years. It was formed in 1966 to oppose our effort in Vietnam, and at one time suggested that American officials of the period be tried as war criminals.
ONCE A GREAT COMPANY - AT 8:31 A.M. ET: With all the hype about recovery, we've reached the bottom, we see the light at the end of the tunnel, etc., etc., there are certain stark realities out there. General Motors is one of them. We're not talking only of the main company. We're talking about the dealers, the suppliers, the customers whose trade-in value is plummeting, and all the little businesses that depend on this once-great company. No one is shrugging shoulders:
General Motors is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection as early as May 31, but a speedy restructuring of the carmaker faces headwinds from an increasingly sceptical US Congress.
Under the current plan, the US government would cancel most or all of its existing debt in the company and invest in a “new” GM that could emerge from bankruptcy in the autumn, said a person close to the matter.
GM would receive tens of billions of dollars in new government money, probably in stages, to prop up its business at a time when car sales are threatening to be lower than the 10m annual rate at which GM says it can break even.
Shares of GM dropped by 25.5 per cent to close at $1.43.
COMMENT: The effects here are not just economic, they're psychological. Chrysler in trouble is one thing. GM is on another level - practically the symbol of American industry. And, increasingly, Americans are starting to doubt that the government should be running car companies, or has the ability to run them effectively. The economic downturn continues, and now the policies are Obama's. He can't continue to blame BUSH (!!).
A WORD FROM THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, PLEASE - AT 7:34 A.M. ET: There was a major terror arrest in New York this week, but you'd never know it by the reaction of the White House. The New York Post gets it exactly right in today's editorial:
President Obama has done a lot of speechifying in recent days about America's "responsibilities" in fighting terror.
So you'd think he'd have a word of encouragement for the team of crack FBI agents and NYPD officers that foiled a real-life terror attack against two Bronx synagogues on Wednesday.
Alas, not a peep.
A verbal nod to the Bronx plot -- especially as he raised the prospect Thursday of bringing Guantanamo detainees to US soil -- would at least have assured Americans that he's aware of the stakes involved.
Or is the president's "new approach" in the War on Terror entirely an academic exercise?
COMMENT: Well said. You'd think that, after the hammering the Obamans have taken from Dick Cheney, the White House would have invited the cops and FBI agents who broke that plot to have a photo-op with the president.
WHY NOT EMBRACE CHILD ABUSE AS WELL? - AT 7:27 A.M. ET:
May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Morgan Stanley, the sixth-biggest U.S. bank by assets, will increase some executive salaries and double Chief Financial Officer Colm Kelleher’s pay as bonuses come under scrutiny from the Obama administration and lawmakers.
The majority of executives will get raises, according to a person briefed on the decision. Chief Executive Officer John Mack’s base salary is unchanged this year, according to a regulatory filing yesterday.
COMMENT: Great sense of public relations, ay? These guys never cease to amaze me. Look, maybe they deserve the coins, but there's a time and a place, and a right way to do it. With people really hurting out there, they could have deferred this and shown respect for public concerns.
A PERFECT STORY FOR THIS WEEKEND - AT 7:19 A.M. ET: A great family indeed:
Caroline Miller, a saber in her white-gloved hand, leads cadets of Company D with crisp commands. "Ready -- eyes right!" As hundreds of West Point cadets march across the sprawling green grass for review, she is in lockstep.
She also is following in the footsteps of family members who have marched just like this for seven generations, forming a long gray bloodline, longer than any still existing at West Point.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of this week's Angel's Corner was sent Wednesday night.
Part II was sent Friday night.
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